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Phenomenography: a conceptual framework for information literacy education

Susie Andretta (School of Information Management, London Metropolitan University, London, UK)

Aslib Proceedings

ISSN: 0001-253X

Article publication date: 27 March 2007




The purpose of this paper is to explore the adoption of a phenomenographic conceptual framework to investigate learning from the perspective of the learner, with the aim of reflecting on the features that this approach shares with information literacy education in general, and with the relational model in particular.


The study offers an analysis of phenomenographic research on learning undertaken by Marton, which is further elaborated by examples of collaborative work by Marton and Booth, as well as by Fazey and Marton. The relationship between understanding and learning, promoted by this perspective, is explored in this paper to illustrate its impact on retention and transfer of the learning process. This is compared with the iterative and independent learning approaches promoted by information literacy education, and specific examples are used to illustrate the pedagogical overlap between phenomenography and information literacy. In addition, the paper examines the relational approach of information literacy promoted by the individual and collective works of Bruce, Lupton, and Edwards to demonstrate how the person‐world relation, advocated by phenomenography, is used to examine the learner‐information relationship promoted by the work of these authors.


The paper reflects on the potential impact that phenomenography and the relational perspectives have on pedagogical practices in Higher Education. In particular, it aims to demonstrate how the relational approach, together with the learn‐how‐to‐learn ethos of information literacy, is fundamental in promoting a framework for lifelong learning that leads to the empowering of the learner through an iterative cycle of reflection and practice, i.e. what phenomenography defines as variation in practice to foster the ownership of learning.


In line with the person‐world relation, the paper explores the relationship between learners and information by outlining its internal/subjective and external/objective dynamics. Claims that the learner's ability to reflect on these dynamics enhances his or her independent learning attitude are explored in the light of current phenomenographic and information literacy research.



Andretta, S. (2007), "Phenomenography: a conceptual framework for information literacy education", Aslib Proceedings, Vol. 59 No. 2, pp. 152-168.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2007, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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